ATTN Britons


“But now, the bulk of the common people presents itself most importunately before my eyes; they are such a stinkhole that, if they were not mightily well suppressed by the [above-mentioned] others, they would send forth such a stink and such an evil reek as would darken the name of the whole population, to the extent that England could boast a people which in irreverence, incivility, coarseness, boorishness, savagery and ill-breeding would yield nothing to any other people the earth might nourish on its breast.

Leaving aside, now, the many subjects who are worthy of some honor, distinction or nobility, I set before your eyes others who, seeing a foreigner, seem, by God, so many wolves and bears and who, by their grim looks, regard him as a pig would someone who came to take away his trough.

This ignoble lot (to whom this applies) is divided into two kinds, of which one comprises the artisans and shopkeepers. These, recognizing in some way that you are a foreigner, make faces at you, laugh at you and mock you, make mouth-farts, and call you, in their jargon, a dog, traitor, and foreigner; and to them this last is a very insulting name which entitles the bearer to be the scapegoat for all the wrongs of the world, whether he be young or old, gowned or armored, nobleman or gentleman. iIf by some misfortune you should happen to touch one of them or lay your hand on your sword, in an instant you will see an army of blackguards gather all along the street. Undoubtedly they come out of the shops, but so quickly that they seem to spring from the earth, even more quickly than (as poets pretend) a multitude of armed men sprang from the dragon’s teeth scattered by Jason.

After giving a most honorific and genteel review of a forest of sticks, poles, halberds, pikes, and rusty pitchforks (which, having been given them by the prince for a good purpose, are always ready for this and similar occasions), you will see them hurl themselves on you with coarse fury, without considering whom, why, where and how, and without a word from one to another. Each one of them, giving vent to his innate contempt of foreigners, will draw near you (if he not be hindered by the crowd of others who are trying to carry out the same idea) and with his own bar he will measure your doublet and, if you aren’t careful, he will permanently pin your hat to your head. And if a nobleman or gentleman happens on the scene, even if he is an earl or a duke who is displeased by such villainy, he, doubting that by joining you in the fray he can help you (even at the cost of harm to himself), will be forced to chafe with anger within and to await on the sidelines the end of the assault (because these ruffians do not respect any person when they have weapons in their hands). Now, at last, when you think it well to seek out a barber and rest your tired and beaten body, you will discover that the very rascals who beat you have become so many policemen and bailiffs who, if they can find a way of pretending that you have touched someone, will make you run, even even if your back and legs are broken as badly as you can imagine, as if you wore the winged shoes of Mercury; or were mounted on Pegasus, or straddled the steed of Perseus, or rode the hippogriff of Astolphus or drove the dromedary of Midian or trotted on one of the giraffes of the three Magi. By force of blows, they will make you hurry; they will help you onward with such fierce knocks as will make you perfer the kicks of an ox, an ass on a mule. They will never leave you until they have thrown you into prison….

The servants of the first rank are poor and needy gentlemen…. Those belonging to the second rank are bankrupt petty merchants or artisans….. [who] have run away or been expelled from school…. Those who belong to the third rank are sluggards who have left a more independent trade in order to escape hard labor: these can be either aquatic idlers from the boats, or earthly idlers from the fields. The last ones, of the fourth rank, are a miscellany of desperadoes who have fallen into disgrace with their masters, or refugees from storms, or pilgrims, or the useless and indolent, or those who no longer have opportunity to steal, or those recently escaped from prison, or those who aim to cheat whomever comes to pick them up where they hang out, that is, the columns of the Exchange and the portals of St. Paul’s….

Among these last classes are those who, in order to show how mighty they are in their own houses and how much guts they have, what good soldiers they are, and how they despise the whole world, [act in the following manner]. Those who do not seem inclined to give way to them, they shove with their shoulders as if with a galley ram, so as to spin them right round, and thus to show them how strong, robust, and powerful they are; strong enough, if need be, to destroy an army. And should they come across a foreigner, let him yield ever so much room, they are bound to show him in every way possible what Caesar, Hannibal, Hector and an ox would do were they to return to fight again….”

-Giordano Bruno


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